Transit Pathways Project Timeline
Transit Pathways Project Timeline

At most of the meetings Metro staff have hosted regarding the Fall 2012 service change, there was also a set of poster boards from Metro’s Transit Pathways project. Thus far, this project has flown under the radar, but the decisions that will arise from it will affect almost all riders to Southwest Seattle for many years. The purpose of this project is to decide how Metro’s West Seattle and Delridge routes will transition between 3rd Ave and the rebuilt SR-99 freeway south of downtown once the viaduct closes and the crowded, caddywompus detours and flyovers are gone. The overall timeline is shown above.

The project is still at an early stage: initial screening has identified four workable pathways that will be studied in detail to choose the best, based on a raft of criteria including likely ridership numbers; speed and reliability; neighborhood impacts and environmental justice; accessibility and intermodal connections; Seattle’s plans for transit and the waterfront; and cost of facilities and “transit classification” (more on that later). Not much is likely to happen on this project in the next couple of months, as the city’s plans for the post-viaduct waterfront are still going through a public process, and the pathways project can’t continue further until the result of that process is more definite.

Alignments and discussion after the jump.

Transit Pathway 3B
Transit Pathway 3B

First up, my favorite alignment: from 3rd Ave, turn right on Main St, follow that to the Alaskan Way surface street, then turn left and go south to the freeway. Inbound trips travel essentially the same alignment, but turn north on 4th Ave S, then use Prefontaine to get to 3rd. I like this, because it provides full coverage of the south end of downtown, prominently serves the pedestrian-oriented heart of Pioneer Square, and provides great connectivity to the many services that operate on Jackson St. This alignment seems pretty convincingly the best for transit, but also has the biggest set of problems.

First, it’s opposed by the neighborhood, who don’t want diesel buses driving (or laying over) on their streets; moreover, the neighborhood obviously has the ear of the city, as the city is pressuring Metro to sharply reduce bus layover in Pioneer Square after the Fall 2012 restructure. My experience, living in Belltown, is that value of copious transit service to the heart of a neighborhood outweighs its impact, but that’s just me. It’s also worth noting that Metro’s two loudest bus models — Phantom and D60HF — should be mostly retired by then, replaced by quieter hybrids.

Here’s the second problem: When Metro wants to start operating buses on a street that didn’t previously have service, or significantly increase the level of service on a street, it must seek the permission of the city in the form of a new or upgraded transit classification for that street, and this usually entails Metro promising to upgrade the pavement should the addition of service end up wrecking the street (as happened on the turnback loop when Route 36 was extended to Othello). Main St’s classification would have to be upgraded at least one level, and there’s a possibility that Metro might end up on the hook to fix parts of the street.

There are a couple more wrinkles to this proposal. Currently, parts of Main St are one-way, a traffic arrangement that is due to the defunct single-track Waterfront Streetcar that operated on Main; it would have to be converted to two-way operation, which would preclude the return of the streetcar unless this segment were moved elsewhere or rebuilt as double-track. There’s also an idea of turning Main St into a transit and pedestrian mall, with only local access traffic permitted. I have mixed feelings about this: certainly, getting cars out of the way of buses is highly desirable (essential, on game days), but unless the street has overwhelming pedestrian demand (like Pike Place during the day, or the Ave on a Friday or Saturday night), removing cars can sometimes make a street less active and appealing.

Transit Pathway 3A
Transit Pathway 3A

Next, basically the same thing, but on a couplet: Washington (outbound), Main (inbound). The only advantage I can see to this alignment, versus the previous, is that it would allow the reuse of the Waterfront Streetcar tracks in their current configuration. But there are disadvantages: I generally think couplets suck, as they’re confusing for occasional riders. Prominence and obviousness of the stop you should use to return whence you came are parts of the ease of use of a transit system. This pathway would require the reclassification (and potential fixing) of two streets, and presumably it would be impractical to prohibit general traffic on two Pioneer Square streets, so it would rule out a transit and pedestrian mall idea.

Transit Pathway 5A
Transit Pathway 5A

The third option is closest to the status quo: via a Marion/Columbia couplet to the surface Alaskan Way, then south to the freeway. This seems dramatically inferior to me: it would perpetuate many of the flaws of the current network, missing much of the south end of downtown, and require riders heading south by train or bus to backtrack quite a way. When car ferries are unloading at Colman Dock, traffic in the area is atrocious, usually gridlocked for two or three blocks east on Marion, so bus reliability would be poor, unless buses had a dedicated lane with queue jumps, which seems expensive and therefore unlikely. On the upside, it would not have any transit classification issues.

Transit Pathway 4B
Transit Pathway 4B

This final option strikes me as a non-starter, but it made somehow made the cut. Buses would follow the alignment of the current 21/22/56 down 4th Ave S to Atlantic St, jog over to 1st Ave S, then head south, getting on the West Seattle Bridge using the Spokane St Viaduct. This would be substantially slower (by my reckoning — again, no formal analysis has been done) than current viaduct service, and I don’t see 1st Ave S as adding enough ridership to warrant the delay to the much larger number of through-riders, although it would serve the south end of the city well. This route also would not have any transit classification issues.

I can’t help but close with an observation: this study should have happened years ago, as part of the design and budget of the highway, rather than being done as an afterthought with no funding from WSDOT. (Instead, it’s funded by a competitive PSRC grant, with a matching portion from Metro; no funding source has yet been identified for any capital work arising from the study). When building infrastructure in dense urban areas, transit needs to be the first transportation mode in the planning process, not the last, because it is the only mode that scales up well in these environments.

72 Replies to “South End Transit Pathways”

  1. I totally agree with this statement:
    this study should have happened years ago, as part of the design and budget of the highway, rather than being done as an afterthought with no funding from WSDOT. (Instead, it’s funded by a competitive PSRC grant, with a matching portion from Metro; no funding source has yet been identified for any capital work arising from the study). When building infrastructure in dense urban areas, transit needs to be the first transportation mode in the planning process, not the last, because it is the only mode that scales up well in these environments.

    Why doesn’t WS-DOT get that? The design of the transit service should impact the infrastructure that gets built, not the other way around. And at a minimum, they should be considered together. That’s one of the big flaws in the Montlake area of the new 520 corridor.

    1. I agree. I thought about discussing the Montlake/520 situation — it’s quite similar — but didn’t want to veer onto a completely new topic right at the end of the post.

      1. I know this comment chain is played out, but for the record WSDOT and Metro have worked together closely on the viaduct for a decade. I wrote a paper assessing AWV transit access and priority options that proposed the alignment you favor back in 2002. At the time Metro was paying more attention to a future where West Seattle buses would be replaced with monorails, and none of the viaduct replacement options looked like the one being built now. Then there was a two year stretch working on how transit would survive a two-year viaduct shutdown for construction, then another two years thinking about how to rise to the challenge of a streets and surface transit option promoted equally by Metro, the state and Seattle. Throughout, Metro was working on its “Transit Blueprint” concept (to settle on reliable pathways through downtown) that included this access option. (There is a similar litany of transit studies between WSDOT, Metro and ST for Montlake and SR 520 if you’d like to explore it).

        So why is Metro studying this now? I’m guessing it’s because now that the viaduct replacement option is known, it’s time to pick the best path, and to take the time to do it right. It’s not an indication that access was ignored during the planning phase, or that planners are inept. It’s been a long and winding road that has made long-range deciding-making difficult.

      2. Thanks for chiming in, it’s always good to hear from people who actually worked on this stuff.

        I take your point about the Monorail project, and I could see in that context why West Seattle transit might not have been a major concern as it is now. I also realize it’s hard to plan any capital project when voters can rewrite the project seemingly on a whim at the ballot box. Still, I think my point stands: WSDOT is contributing nothing financially to the study, and has committed nothing to the capital work that will have to be done as a result, although it’s true they have cooperated in the study.

        Moreover, analyses to choose an optimal transit path (such as travel time, neighborhood impacts, ridership etc.) could and should have been part of the EIS for all the alternatives, and, more importantly, part of the informal internal deliberations that lead up to a finished EIS. The fact that this study is contemplating an alternative (4B) that avoids the entire finished product of the AVW replacement project leads me to believe that such work was not done to any significant extent.

        On the question of the “ineptitude of planners”, whether I agree or not hinges on who you mean by “planners”. If you mean the staff at Metro and WSDOT who are doing this study, I agree they seem to be doing a great job. If you mean the high-level planning, and the decision to not incorporate this work into the project and the budget, then I have to disagree.

        520 planning is something we could discuss at several times the length, and I don’t want to sidetrack the discussion too far, but I will say that if WSDOT has thought very hard about transit on 520, it’s not in evidence from what they’re proposing at Montlake.

      3. Thanks for the come back Rob, as you are well respected, having worked both sides of the fence (WSDOT/Metro), and have certainly shouted for an answer over the years.
        What bugs me is the pathways are probably going to sub optimal solutions to the existing DBT plan, rather than both agencies agreeing to the optimal movement of buses when Spring/Seneca close. That’s just, or more important to have decided initially, than where the SOV on/off ramps go. Transitioning from 3rd to SODO for all the DSTT buses should have been a done deal at the same time.
        My biggest concern is there will be NO $$ to do much of anything, so the Sub/Sub solution becomes the default plan until funding becomes available.
        Here’s the latest from MBTA today. No money through 2016, huge service reductions and equally huge fare increases in 2013. Not a pretty picture for them, OR Metro.
        http://www.progressiverailroading.com/prdailynews/news.asp?id=29372
        Mike.

    2. Well, so much for relying on Alternative Analysis and Scoping to ensure mega projects consider the impacts of their decisions.
      Apparently the DBT crowd doesn’t have a clue what was going to happen, as Metro is just starting to try to deal with a ‘done deal’.
      Hey – WSDOT and Transportation Commission – go stand in the back corner of the room for several years.

      1. Remember, the Deep Bore Tunnel resulted from completely violating the Alternatives Analysis, Scoping, and EIS procedures.

      1. WSDOT has lots of cool videos with relaxing music showing cool bus stops on SR 520. Problem is, after East Link reaches Overlake, the only bus serving those stops will probably be the 542, if that.

      2. The 542 is from Kirkland, and will connect, more or less, at UW Station.

        But I also expect a lot of Kirkland-to-Seattle trips will be via bus feeder routes to East Link. If these routes get much better frequency due to high demand for rides to Bellevue and Microsoft, then the 542 may not survive.

      3. By the time Link reaches Overlake the 520 bridge will have had HOV lanes for a decade, and will still be the most direct way to make a whole lot of trips. Anyway the 542 goes to Redmond, not Kirkland; it’s the 540 that goes to Kirkland.

        But there will also be a bike path along 520, so if they decide to make my commute a three-seat ride I won’t have to care very often at all.

    3. “The design of the transit service should impact the infrastructure that gets built, not the other way around.”

      Gee, if they did that they’d put an underground bus stop downtown so the buses could actually use the tunnel.

  2. What pathway will most auto drivers take to access 99? I’m guessing that Jackson and Yesler will be the routes that car drivers will prefer, so Main and Washington would be logical places to locate transit routes. (But how will that impact the proposal to move the 3/4 to Yesler?) Whatever route is chosen for transit should be given transit/carpool priority and other access routes should be left primarily for autos. I think Jackson, Main and Washington are going to see quite a bit more use once 99 is finished.

    One big plus for pathway 5A is that it will avoid traffic jams at the stadiums on game nights.

    1. That’s a good question. For drivers coming off the freeway from the south, I suspect they’ll take the first obvious arterial, which would be Jackson (although that depends upon the signage and other visual factors). I could see traffic increasing on Yesler a little bit, but not enough to be problematic for transit. I’m more concerned about Jackson, which is already a bit of a mess, and will have a streetcar stopping in the center lane, lots of buses stopping in the curb lane, and a bunch more cars.

      1. I’ve been trying to find a good map of what downtown/SODO/Seattle Center will look like after the tunnel and waterfront are re-built. Does anyone have a link?

  3. Nice article, Bruce. I can live with any of the options, though, I think there should be some service on 1st Ave S/ 4th Ave. S in the SODO area. It is a bit confusing at this time since there will be major changes to West Seattle service in the fall of 2012.

    1. The revised 131/132 will provide a frequent service corridor on 4th Ave S under the Fall ’12 restructure (this part of the restructure doesn’t seem at risk). I agree that some all-day service on 1st Ave S would be nice, but I’m not convinced it’s worth making everyone on 120/RR C wait for it.

  4. Isn’t there a busway on SODO? Wouldn’t it make sense to leverage that so you get dedicated ROW?

    1. For a bus headed to West Seattle from 3rd Ave, the SODO Busway doesn’t buy you anything because you have jog over from 4th Ave S to get on it, then jog back to 1st Ave S to get on the viaduct. For a tunnel bus going to West Seattle, it would indeed be the obvious choice.

      1. I have always wondered about this. In the future when the buses are kicked out of the tunnel how will they connect from 3rd with the busway in sodo?

        Seems like a ramp from the busway to airport way or 4th would be very helpfull. Just dont know how you would do it.

        Personally i would like to see 3rd somehow connected to the busway. And a transit on and off ramp onto the busway from the spokane street viaduct. To me this would streamline all service to downtown from the south, as both freeways will be connected to the busway and thus to 3rd ave.

      2. Not being a West Seattle bus rider it is easy for me to suggest this, but is it possible to truncate these routes at SODO station? Might not result in much savings, but it might improve reliability by not sending these buses through downtown.

      3. Interesting thought Brett! As a frequent rider largely dependent on the 120, I’d tentatively support that idea. But I know many would decry the loss of a 1-seat ride to 3rd and Pine. Though with the future mess of the downtown grid, a well-designed transfer to Link at SODO (especially with the frequency increases associated with U-Link) may end up being a faster option.

      4. I think a better idea would be forcing SODO transfers on routes like the 56 and 125 that serve a unique geographic area, but don’t perform as well as the trunk routes like the 120. This is, of course, exactly what the Fall ’12 restructure proposes, and this is one of the things that has drawn protest.

      5. Adding a transfer to routes that have already seen construction slow downs and the promise of longer rides after construction is completed (by an estimated 10 minutes) will likely move more people in West Seattle back to their cars…exactly what many people don’t want to see.

      6. AJL, I definitely understand the uncertainty a transfer introduces to a transit trip, and depending on the time of day this could be problematic for my suggestion of forcing one. That said, it is possible this could result in faster and at times more reliable trips for many riders. I haven’t done the analysis to back this up, however.

      7. In the future when the buses are kicked out of the tunnel how will they connect from 3rd with the busway in sodo?

        Currently, buses making that trip jog over to 4th ave via Royal Brougham.

      8. Brett, indeed, if any additional transfer is added to the trip from WS to downtown, it must be studied. I especially wonder about those riders who may soon be experiencing more route cut-backs and have to travel from the Admiral area to the Alaska Junction to transfer, then have another transfer at SOD0. In my case, hypothetically, if the WS originator routes don’t change overall (many routes to/from WS are linked to those heading to Ballard/Fremont/north end so it complicates things), that could mean yet another transfer downtown to get to my destination. Three total transfers in this scenario, to go 6 miles. Unless all the WS buses come more frequently then more riders won’t be added – and no overhaul of Metro routes is planned nor is service getting speedier by any means.

      9. @MurrayD – while truncating buses at SODO station might seem feasible for northbound trips since the train runs very frequently. On Southbound trips, however, asking people to wait at for a bus in SODO after dark for up to 15-30 minutes would be a non-starter because SODO is just a terrible environment to be stuck waiting for a bus. I don’t live in West Seattle, but if I did, I would be screaming too about any proposal asking me to connect in SODO to get to downtown.

  5. Have there been any serious proposals to make any downtown streets transit only (besides business/delivery access)? Could the 3rd avenue peak restrictions be extended south to enhance post-viaduct transit flow? It would certainly help Seattle accomplish its traffic & transit goals if people knew that the buses would fly through southern downtown while SOVs are stuck in the crowded grid a block away.

    1. Extending the 3rd Ave peak restrictions into the weekday midday, and the possible transit/ped mall idea for Main are the only two that I know of that seem possible-to-likely in the near future. There are already quite a lot of bus lanes on 2nd and other streets with many bus routes.

      My hunch is that bus zone capacity will become the bottleneck with the end of the RFA. The ultimate solution to that problem is switching to off-board payment, with TVMs all over the place, like London’s cashless area, but that’s a major capital project that no-one has the appetite for now.

      There are a number of service changes Metro can make (or have made, or are making) to improve capacity on 3rd. One is eliminating the left turns on Spring (2S) and right turns on Pike (14N), which block travel lanes, sometimes for minutes. Another is adding another queue jump and more bus lanes to move West Seattle routes onto the viaduct more quickly, so the right turn on Columbia doesn’t back up. Moving the James wire to Yesler would eliminate another turning choke-point, but that’s not cheap.

      More generally, Metro could cut back lower-performing radial routes and force those riders to transfer at an outlying transit hub to or from a radial trunk route such as Link, RapidRide or others like the 7xX series or 120*. That way, every bus downtown is a full bus. The Fall ’12 restructure proposed a number of changes in this vein, but we’ll see how that goes.

      * Of course, the corollary to that is that your radial trunk routes have to be frequent, reliable and not overcrowded, a test which many routes, notably the 7x series fail terribly.

      1. Remember that Seattle’s parking meters can also be used as TVMs, so it might not be that expensive. Swift uses those meters just fine.

      2. To clarify, they can spit out paper tickets, not ORCA. I’m assuming regular riders would already have ORCA, but casual users could get tickets.

      3. I imagine the new parking meters (of which there are still relatively few) can, but the old ones don’t have big enough coin chambers — Metro has evaluated that. There’s also not nearly enough parking on 3rd Ave in the RFA (i.e. virtually none, just a couple of loading zones) to match the number of TVMs you’d need to move a big fraction of riders away from cash payment.

      4. Based on the survey linked in the Top 10 list a few posts back, 55% of riders don’t have ORCA, and 84% of them either think ORCA VMs are too inconvenient to get to, or don’t know where the ORCA VMs are.

        That’s why I say put all the new ORCA VMs downtown. As October 2012 approaches, I’m not worried about change fumbling out in the boonies nearly as much as I’m worried about change fumbling on 3rd Ave. So, put the ORCA VMs where the change fumbling most needs to go away. And then, if the county council doesn’t have the stomach to implement a universal cash surcharge, implement a Cash Surcharge Zone in the central business district.

  6. In my opinion one benefit of possibly needing to rebuilt Main St is that Metro/SDOT would have the freedom (or more freedom) to completely remake the street into something new. Rather than having a 3rd Ave feel, they could rebuilt it with a busway and amenities that would make this additional service attractive to the neighborhood in a way it might not otherwise be. The Bell St linear park is a good example where the City used a necessary reconstruction to good ends.

    1. Not sure what you mean by that. The reason the Bell Street Park is happening is because Belltown real estate is too expensive to buy land for a park. There was absolutely no other impetus to tear up Bell Street. In fact, the project manager has stated that if they had known how many utilities were located underneath, they would have chosen a different street.

      1. Didn’t they bother to look at a utility map before committing to the project?

        Apparently they’ll have to rip up all the existing trees, too, which seems like something that could have been figured out well in advance, and will add cost to the project.

      2. @Matt and Bruce

        The Bell Street park is partly happening because Seattle City Light has to rip up the street to upgrade utilities and rather than just rebuilding the road as it is now, SCL and Parks got together to actually build something nicer. My point is if you can integrate necessary maintenance with changes you want, you can get a lot more bang for your buck and are more likely to get dramatic changes than if you are fixing things that don’t need fixing.

        http://www.seattlechannel.org/news/detail.asp?ID=9762&Dept=40

  7. Being a West Seattle resident, bus rider and cyclist, I see less pain overall using the 4th Ave route. Many non-express routes already are using this route, and then going over the even more slow lower bridge (while the 1st Ave onramp to the upper bridge is under construction). It’s really not bad, and if the express routes continue to not pick up new passengers after leaving Pioneer Square area, then even better.

    As someone who most frequently uses the Alaskan waterfront route via bicycle, adding buses down there would not be beneficial at all – until the entire waterfront is re-worked. Alaskan is narrow with frequent stops and lots and lots of traffic. On game days it’s usually worse (due to ferries) or no better than 1st or 4th. While there would be many people down there, I don’t see the core of them traveling to West Seattle – tourists or ferry riders or game/event attendees making up the bulk of them (again, this may change with the final waterfront configuration). Navigating the street by bike is already a challenge I can’t see that adding buses to the chaos will improve anything for anyone at this point, especially since any route will likely be inconsistent due to the many, many construction detours that have/will be taking place for the next 4-5 years.

    1. I think the Alaskan Way surface street would be rebuilt completely at least as far as Pine St, where it would become the Elliot-Western connector. I can’t find a cite for this offhand, but I think roadway will be six lanes as far north as Columbia. It will, however, still be a mess when ferries are unloading, no matter how wide it is.

    2. AJL, I tend to agree. I rode the peak-only 57 for a couple of weeks during jury duty from Genesee Hill to King County Courthouse. I was actually pleasantly surprised that the 1st Ave.S/4th Ave.S routing was so quick during rush hour. The only bottleneck was the maze UNDER the west end of the West Seattle Bridge. Once past that mess, it was pretty quick.

  8. As a West Seattle bus rider, I think the determining factor is going to be the likelihood of bottlenecks on 99 approaching Main Street (or whatever street becomes the pathway), especially given the desire for many drivers to exit here to avoid tolls. I need a refresher – will there be transit lanes on 99 all the way to the downtown pathway?

    If so, then Pathway 3B is attractive – this promises the possible quick ride to King Street Station.

    If not, 4B becomes a strong contender.

    1. I remember seeing a shoulder bus lane in one rendering but don’t remember what iteration/design that was from. I don’t remember seeing the same for the SB exit in SLU.

    2. There will not be transit lanes along the length of 99 (WSDOT refused to pay for any transit improvements/additions for this area, and the north portal area…ironically even though the changes will massively effect transit). However, SDOT is adding a bus lane only exit northbound just before the proposed last exit off 99, right before the tunnel. The same will be reversed for the southbound entrance…a bus only lane on the on-ramp. There are no special lanes planned on or off the new roadways.

  9. I’m curious about the transit classification of streets. Does this mean metro generally pays for all repairs on streets with transit routes like the paving that just happened on 23rd between John and about mercer? Would they be on the hook for the (hopefully soon) repaving of montlake/24th between aloha and SR520?

    1. “Does this mean metro generally pays for all repairs on streets with transit routes like the paving that just happened on 23rd between John and about mercer?”

      Not in general, although there are exceptions. I don’t know when the transit classification system was introduced, but roads that have had transit since the dawn of time (like 23rd Ave) are grandfathered in. More generally, Metro is usually on the hook only for things that can be pinned conclusively on bus use, rather than just the general pounding that arterial streets get.

      I’m told (I haven’t verified this with Metro) that some of the concrete paving sections at bus stops on E-W streets downtown were paid for by Metro, because buses were wrecking the street as they came to a halt at those really steep stops.

  10. Not to dislike on the proposals to route buses through Pioneer Square (which I think makes so much sense that the bus haters have got to be outnumbered by the transit users at the neighborhood meeting), but I’m floored that a route that runs all the way down 4th Ave S to the Spokane St Viaduct is not on the table.

    Metro at least hinted at wanting east-west connectivity when it unveiled the proposed 50 (which is a weak alternative to simply having more routes connect around SODO Station, and which I think will be a ridership flop).

    Is it way to late to get a 4th Ave S route with no jog to 1st Ave S back on the table? I’m not saying that should end up being the winning path. I’m just saying it deserves analysis, as it is such an obvious option with very few turns and maximum connectivity. Maybe the analysis will show that the Pioneer Square path will be faster for east-west connectivity, but at least do the study and show the numbers.

    1. The 4th Ave onramp was removed. There will be no 4th Ave onramp any longer, so 1st Ave is the only onramp option to West Seattle, other than going over the low bridge.

    2. In my experience, 1st ave S is a more reliable n/s corridor south of the Stadiums. 4th Ave S tends to get severely congested at seemingly random times of day, and (in the southbound direction) the required at-grade BNSF crossing on Spokane St would worsen reliability even more.

      Congestion between Royal Brougham and Yesler is bad in all options, all routes. If the new waterfront street couplet was finished, that would probably be the best option (western inbound, alaskan outbound), but I have no idea what the timeframe is on that.

      1. I totally disagree. Rail movements rarely block Spokane for as long as they block, say, Lander (where they actually stop and reverse sometimes). And they’re not nearly as bad as Edgar Martinez or 1st South on a game day.

        Mass transit for those not themselves heading to a sporting event needs to be impervious to slowdowns from such routine events. Or else you get everyone on the bus thinking that “if I had driven, I could have gone around this.” Transit 101.

        Furthermore, an all-4th routing at least gives riders the option of a Link transfer if they’re headed somewhere southeast or to the airport. When U-Link opens, a trip from West Seattle to Cap Hill or UW might save 10 minutes switching here versus switching downtown! And if post-toll-tunnel surface traffic proves really bad, rush hours might begin to warrant switching to Link even just to get downtown.

        Allow the option, for crying out loud!

    3. It’s too bad the plans for ramps from the busway to the Spokane Street viaduct fell by the wayside.

  11. So, if the Pioneer Square path is chosen, and Metro wisely decides to place its 11 new ORCA VMs along 2nd-5th Aves, and western Pioneer Square is chosen for an ORCA VM spot, will Metro need permission from the city and the all-powerful neighborhood association to put the VM there?

    I have to remind everyone: Neighborhood meetings, like democracy, are about who shows up. If you don’t attend your neighborhood association or its transportation committee, I’d suggest you start doing so. Just one eloquent voice can change many minds.

  12. Having just fled Pioneer Square for better office space uptown, I really don’t understand the neighborhood’s thought process here. There is very little transit service to the heart of Pioneer Square after the 15/18/21/22/56/57 moved to 3rd and there will be still less once the 99 is reduced to peak only next year. And what is this horrible layover situation they are complaining about? The 70? Most other routes terminate beyond Pioneer Square in sodo. While NIMBYism never surprises me, this seems to be kicking it up a notch on the ridiculousness scale. Isolating the neighborhood from transit riders is NOT going to help with the neighborhoods blight problems or the exodus of business.

    1. The 358 used to lay over in Pioneer Square, I believe. It was kicked out and now lays at the old streetcar terminal. Most of the other buses that lay over are peak trippers and some 5/5Xs. There are way more layover spots in Belltown, although they are, admittedly, spread over a rather larger area.

  13. I’m still surprised that the West Seattle Bridge to 3rd ave bus lane alternative will not get considered. Not every person from West Seattle works downtown. If you want to use East Link or South Link (like to get to the airport), then a connecting as South as possible (meaning SODO) would be beneficial.

    1. If you want to use EastLink, connecting in SODO means a 3-seat ride because you’d have to get off the train at IDS and get on the train going the other way. Transferring downtown, however, would leave it at just a 2-seat ride. If you’re going south from West Seattle to the airport, you probably want to take the 128 and connect to Link at TIBS, not go through SODO. So, unless the bus approach into downtown is really clogged with car traffic, a Link connection in SODO is really only useful for travel between West Seattle and the Ranier Valley – since these are two largely residential neighborhoods, this is not a trip that many people will be making.

      1. Other than Bruce, Aleks, and the Metro planner who came up with the proposed 50 (which I suspect will be left on the cutting-room floor with the next restructure iteration), I don’t think anyone has proposed not sending West Seattle buses that serve SODO Station on into downtown.

        I hope the 4th Ave approach does get fully studied, so that we know whether the West-Seattle-to-East-Link connection is faster via 4th and a transfer at IDS or via Pioneer Square and a transfer at PSS or USS.

      2. In Boston, there are something like 1-2 dozen buses (both full-time and commuter express) which terminate at Haymarket Station — about a mile walk, and a 2-stop light or heavy rail ride, from downtown.

        Of course, this works because there’s a train coming to Haymarket Station about every minute. Given the much lower frequency in Seattle, it’s understandable that such a change wouldn’t be quite as palatable.

        Still, part of the reason that we have such poor frequency on our network is precisely because every bus needs to go downtown. If we were bolder about terminating buses at Link stations, we could have 5-minute frequency on Link and 10-minute frequency on connecting buses, with today’s budget, and we’d have the ridership to make it worthwhile.

        Given a piecemeal network change, I agree that terminating buses at SODO isn’t the best place to start. But given a full revamp — and we’re going to need one eventually if we don’t want to go broke — running a bus in parallel with a train just isn’t the best use of resources.

  14. You got it right when you say the new 520 and UW ST station have a terrible connection and Metro sat at the table and just let WSDOT do design (or lack of) that state wanted. 1/3 mi walk in the inclimate weather we gave us BAD. AND 150 buses a day on little Montlake lid is not exactly decent mitigation.

  15. I’m with you on preferring the first two options. For Pioneer Square to be a viable neighborhood it needs those buses going right through it. I’m curious about the need for layovers–isn’t there a Metro base right nearby? I don’t understand the obsession over keeping the defunct streetcar infrastructure. I know people have their fond memories of the practically useless single-track streetcar, but it’s time to give it up and move on. I would rather see Main be an awesome transit/ped mall than keep those weird platforms intact. Move one to MOHAI for preservation, sure, but don’t just leave them sitting there on the streets collecting dust. I would also say that a Washington/Main couplet would be fine, too. I’m not a fan of couplets in general for the same reasons Bruce gives, but one short block is not a big deal. The bad ones are the ones that are several blocks or one long block wide, like we would have had with the First Hill Streetcar 12th/Broadway couplet.

    1. It saves about about 10-15 minutes of deadhead time each way to lay over the buses in Pioneer Square vs Atlantic/Central/Ryerson, and that adds up.

      Re: the streetcar, I’m just gonna stop, drop and roll.

      1. Cling! Cling! Cling! Streetcars are noisier than diesel buses. ;)

        I get the distinct impression that the Pioneer Square Community Association wants to kick out all the residents (what few there are) and have Pioneer Square become solely a tourist trap. In that case, kicking the buses out of Pioneer Square makes no sense at all.

    2. “I don’t understand the obsession over keeping the defunct streetcar infrastructure. I know people have their fond memories of the practically useless single-track streetcar, but it’s time to give it up and move on.”
      Thank-you Zef!!

  16. Looking at the options, most of the bus “layovers” would happen on the north end of downtown. While expensive, a viable option would be to construct a large multi-level bus terminal at CPS, similar to Transbay or the PA bus terminal in NYC. You could have 3 or 4 “decks” of buses. Metro on the lower level and one of the uppers, Sound Transit/Pierce Transit occupying one, and Greyhound and other stragglers taking the surface deck. Even with a single street level deck that would be a vast improvement over the large open “pit” now occupying most of the CPS site. Some property in the NE Corner could be bought, the flyover ramp rebuilt or eliminted entirely, Upper levels could span across Olive to Howell, with approach ramps fanning out from there. Again, it would be tremendously expensive project, however, the sourrounding property isnt highly devloped and would be relativly cheap to buy.

    1. I’ve always wondered why Community Transit has its own lot for its buses waiting for the evening commute south of the Metro bases. Why not just rent mid-day space at one of the Metro bases? There will always be ample mid-day space there on non-holiday weekdays.

      After North Link opens, the question will then arise where CT is going to park its commuter buses around Northgate.

  17. At the risk of violating transit planning catechisms against wierd couplets, let me suggest another approach: Have West Seattle buses exit the Spokane St viaduct at the 4th Ave cloverleaf inbound, and have those same routes do the Lander jog outbound to the 1st Ave direct onramp.

    Oh, and be sure to move the southbound bus stop at 4th and Lander north of Lander.

    Since 1st, 4th, and Lander are under city control, this is where bus lanes can happen.

  18. Snarky comment:

    “First, it’s opposed by the neighborhood, who don’t want diesel buses driving (or laying over) on their streets;”

    So electrify them. Yeah, run overhead over the freeway too. Why the hell not?….

  19. There are tradeoffs for riders that are worth making explicit. The Pioneer Square options are a general plus for the transit network because they enable transfers at Intl Dist station. Against that is the delay in just getting from Pine Street to Pioneer Square, the crawl through Pioneer Square, and the game traffic. If I lived in West Seattle I’d be really happy if my route were the 54,55, or 125 that use the viaduct, and I’d be pissed off if my route were the 21,22, or 56 which spend half their time getting through downtown and SODO. The number of people going from West Seattle to Pioneer Square is probably a fraction of the number going to Pine Street (either because their destination is midtown or for a transfer). Link and the FHS and all-day Sounder may change that if they make Intl Dist more of a central station that everybody wants to go to, but at this point it’s uncertain whether it will eventually become that. So we should think for a few minutes about the people who want to go “downtown” — where “downtown” means “midtown” — and don’t want to spend 10-15 minutes on a nice tour of Pioneer Square, every single day.

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